Universal and equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines, diagnostics and treatments is crucial in the global fight against COVID-19.
International Trade is a competence of the EU under the Treaties and in exercising that competence, the European Commission engages fully with the Member States, including Ireland, through a variety of Committees and Working Parties/Groups, including on Intellectual Property.
The EU proposed an alternative to the TRIPS waiver that relates to the use of the flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement. The proposal is targeted and pragmatic and aims at ensuring that governments can resort to compulsory licences, including to export to countries with no or limited manufacturing capacities, in the most effective manner adapted to the circumstances of a pandemic.
The EU is of the view that there is no single solution and that a multi-pronged approach is needed and that discussions should concentrate on how the Intellectual Property system can contribute towards increasing the manufacturing capacity and the equitable access to vaccines around the world.
Despite the postponement of the WTO Ministerial Conference, WTO members will continue to engage in a solution-oriented manner to find an outcome on how the WTO can contribute to an effective response to any pandemic, not just the current one.
Ireland will engage with the European Commission and other member states on the EU position for the WTO discussions including discussions on how the flexibilities within the TRIPS Agreement can contribute towards increasing the manufacturing capacity and the equitable access to vaccines around the world.
The global production of vaccines is increasing rapidly and it is estimated that 12 billion doses of COVID vaccines will be produced by the end of 2021. The EU considers that the COVAX Facility is the mechanism that is best placed to ensure that high-income countries finance the vaccines and support the developing countries to secure their share of global supply.
Europe has committed 200 million doses to reach low and middle-income countries by the end of this year, mainly through the COVAX initiative and is investing €1 billion to ramp up mRNA production capacity in Africa.
Ireland has contributed €7 million in funding to COVAX in 2021 and will donate 1.3 million vaccines this year to low-income countries as part of the COVAX programme. The first 500,000 Irish doses donated through the facility reached Nigeria on the 29th of November with further donations of Irish vaccines taking place in the coming weeks. In addition, Ireland has delivered on its commitment to donate 335,000 COVID-19 doses to Uganda.